It’s official — construction has started to make Optimist Hill at Diefenbaker Park a Saskatoon ski, snowboard and tubing destination.
A sod-turning ceremony was held Friday morning at the hill to begin the $2 million project.
The plan is to raise the hill by 30 feet, install a “magic carpet” ski lift system and lighting, create four different sections of the hill for different activities and lining the park with evergreen trees.
— Chris Vandenbreekel (@Vandecision) July 13, 2018
“It’s almost a sigh of relief, we’ve been working this project for so long,” said Robert Letts, co-chair of the Optimist Hill campaign.
“People were probably really skeptical we were going to get to this point … but this project is going ahead and it’s going to be a fabulous park when it’s done.”
He said the plan is to open the attractions by winter 2018, with a base admission price of around $10 for skiing, snowboarding and tubing.
A section of the hill will still have free tobogganing, sponsored by Saskatchewan Blue Cross.
Joe Vant Hof, the other co-chair of the campaign, said it was important to maintain accessibility for the public.
“We felt we didn’t want to take existing things away from the park,” he said.
The vision for enhancing the hill was first approved by city council in 2015, with a total goal of $5 million.
Vant Hof said phase one of the project is 75 to 80 per cent funded.
A second phase — a chalet with changing rooms — is priced at $5 million.
“We’re working with several sponsors at this time to garner support for that,” he said.
Optimist Hill is also planning to offer programming when the snow melts. One run of the hill, labelled as a “terrain park” will be contoured for mountain bikers.
The hill will also incorporate horticulture, Indigenous teachings and bird watching.